Situated at Malvern within Philly’s estimable Main Line and nestled in the hills of Chester County, the course at Applebrook Golf Club is a Gil Hanse design that first opened for play in 2001, where holes start and finish next to a clubhouse that sits on the highest part of the property.
In the book The American Private Golf Club Guide, Daniel Wexler describes Applebrook as “a classic Golden Age-style layout complete with small greens, attractive, rough-edged bunkering and lots of native grasses to frame the entire picture.”
The author continues: “Applebrook took some stylistic cues from that most legendary of Philadelphia courses, Merion… There is far more subtlety here than on most modern designs which, perhaps more than anything, is what gives Applebrook its classic feel.”
In 2001, a pair of New England golf course developers visited Applebrook and were so impressed by the work of little-known architect Gil Hanse that they hired him to design what would become his breakthrough course—Boston Golf Club. It doesn’t take even a full round here to see why they were favorably inclined. Hanse’s routing flows naturally over an odd shaped parcel of land with every tee a short and intuitive walk from the previous green. Doglegs abound, with #s 10 and 18 the course’s only straight holes. (The latter is challenging enough at 430 yards from the members’ tees and 40 feet of elevation over a huge bunker on the second shot.) Only these two holes lack a line of charm to challenge the tee shot.
The greens are nicely contoured, though not a severely as Boston’s. A covered stone wall in the fourth fairway adds another classic touch. (This effect is offset by the waterfall that drops from the clubhouse between the 10th and 18th fairways—a feature that was installed over Hanse’s objections.) Another classic touch is the requirement to select options for one’s approach shot, as only a few holes require an aerial shot. The hallmark of the four par 5s is a challenging second shot, a spot where many architects simply fall asleep. The par 4 holes’ yardages also show diversity, with the par 4s running from 280 (the terrific drivable par 4 third) to 437 yards from the member tees. The five par 3s, however, do not share this characteristic, as I hit the same club on three of them.
Good conditioning completes the splendid picture at Applebrook.